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Weather Not Only Thing Slowing Harvest as Labor Issues Remain

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Weather Not Only Thing Slowing Harvest as Labor Issues Remain

Kassi Tom-Rowland (far left) and Betsy Bower (second from left) discuss the strange 2019 growing season and labor issues at the Forbes AgTech Summit in Indianapolis.

Harvest is underway in Northcentral Indiana. Kassi Tom-Rowland with Tom Farms in Leesburg, IN said seed corn harvest began a few weeks ago and they expect to start soybeans this week. Weather, obviously, played a big role in plant maturity this year delaying harvest for many. Rowland says they expect to be running well into December at this point. But it isn’t just the weather delaying harvest this year. Labor remains a major issue.

“It’s something that is a day to day issue for us…We had four H-2A’s, were down to two now, and I’ve actually extended their contract out for another 20 days just because they can’t go home November 30 because we’re going to need them after that. There is still going to be a lot to be done.”

Betsy Bower, agronomist for Ceres Solutions, says the labor issue is impacting the entire industry, coops as well.

“We’ve got an aging workforce that understands what agriculture is. Some of the newer workforce may not. While I think they’re out there, we certainly are having challenges finding them.”

Rowland says the toughest employees to find are, “applicators, by far, hands down.”

Why? Rowland says, “When you’re running a machine across the field 120 foot at a time, you want to make sure that skill set is really where it needs to be because if it’s not, something could go wrong really quick. On top of that, you’re really applying plant health items to our fields keeping all those plants healthy…that’s, at the end of the day, so very important because if you don’t have the crops you don’t have anything to harvest.”

Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue applauded the Department of Labor on Friday for taking steps to streamline the H2-A process saying, “no one should have to hire a lawyer to hire a farm worker.” Visit here for that story.